Connections

Yeah, I let one slide. I cussed on my blog. But I gotta be honest. It felt good. I cuss in real life so it feels more real to do it here occasionally, too. Hey, I also eat junk food, yell at my kid and throw my hair in a bun when I don’t feel like brushing out the tangles. Ah, that is so cathartic.

This weekend was really good. I sent the yaya to first aid training all day Saturday and all day Sunday and spent the weekend with Coco. I love that girl but dang she drives me crazy. She is often so grouchy and needs constant entertainment and stimulation that I just can’t or sometimes don’t want to give her. She loves me but I know she would be happier if there were more people around. She would thrive in a large family. The weekend was good, though, because I felt like we made some breakthroughs.

Parenting adopted children is hard and single parenting is hard and every now and then you learn something new about adoption or you pick up a new strategy or get some additional validation or support that you didn’t know you needed and it helps so much. Coco went into work with me on Saturday and I was amazed that she was able to entertain herself with some horses and blocks for extended periods of time. This was arguably the first time I have seen her able to do this for more than about 3 minutes. On Saturday she played for 10-15 minutes all by herself. Wow. Okay, she did have an enormous screaming meltdown when it was time to go but by the time we got to the car she had calmed down and could explain to me why she was so distraught.

Then on Sunday we grabbed our suits and hopped in the car to drive up to see my friend J and her three year old daughter, L. Driving was an adventure as always as I got lost and cussed when we somehow ended up on the damn SLEX. After a 15-minute detour and asking for directions we made it back on Edsa towards Roxas Blvd. where J&L live. It was a great teachable moment for Coco where I talked to her about perseverance and not giving up when there is something you want. When we finally made it back on the right road Coco said to me from her carseat, “Mommy, I am happy.” Since she is usually grouchy I just assumed she was saying she was unhappy but she corrected me. No, I am happy.” I was stunned but pleased. “Aw, Pumpkin. I am glad you are happy. Why are you happy?” She smiled and said it was because L is her best friend.

I almost cried. She has never referred to anyone as her best friend and it made me feel so happy for her to feel that connection. It was especially bittersweet because her birthday is looming I have been wondering if I should even bother planning a party because she doesn’t have a core group of friends. She attends school half days but rarely talks about anyone from there. She has attended swimming lessons for six months with the same kids but she never asks to play with them. At first I chalked it up to her being a social butterfly with varied interests flitting from friend to friend but now I worry there is more to it than that. In her old school she was immensely popular. When I dropped her off the kids would all call her name and run up to greet her. But here it’s not like that. I have started to worry it is because she is so different from the kids here. She is the only Ethiopian child in her class. She is the only Black child in her class. She is the youngest child in her class of mixed 3 and 4 year olds. She gets teased and the other kids call her a baby. She is the baby, but she’s also my baby and it kills me.

So back to the car. She says L is her best friend and I can’t help but feel immense relief at hearing these words. But I find it curious. She has only played with L a handful of times. In fact, when I told her she had a playdate with her today she had to ask me who she was to jog her memory. But when she says it I can’t help but notice that L is another Black child. And she is another girl without a dad. Can she feel a bond to her like I feel towards her mother? My friend J is African American, also from the DC area, also a single parent. She is also just finishing up her first year here Manila on a two-year contract like myself. While in the pool J and I talked a long time about life here. We touched on Lady Gaga and Boracay and dating but we had a good conversation about single parenting and yayas and life abroad. It felt so good to talk to someone who actually gets what I am going through and who could offer advice and insight. Could it be that Coco also feels a connection and comfort in someone who is like her? I absolutely believe this to be the case, especially when I recall what she said to me one night curled in my arms after a bedtime story: “I don’t like my brown skin.”

Oh, baby girl.

There will be lots of playdates with L over the next year. I won’t allow her to go weeks without seeing another brown-skinned child. And I need the friendship of J just as much as Coco needs L.

  

    

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6 Responses to Connections

  1. kikielaine says:

    “I don’t like my brown skin.” That just breaks my heart. 😦 I’m glad you found a black friend that is also living in similar circumstances as you and Coco. Those friendships are special.

  2. Sen says:

    Nice story indeed. The one thing that concerns me about living abroad is making connections with people who look like me. Granted, friendship is colorblind but at the same time you always need to see others. I wonder if there is a language barrier between Coco and her classmates and she’s not comfortable with them because she doesnt understand them. Maybe? Moving abroad is a big journey but you will survive; you always do. 🙂 The best part is that it opens your eyes to things outside of your comfort zone.
    Now go out and find you a date. You don’t have to marry him; just eat dinner and have a good conversation.
    Enjoy your day and make it a great week!

    Sen

    • Joy says:

      well the language of instruction at coco’s school is english so it’s not that. and yes, friendship is colorblind but i honestly think it’s more subtle. you wouldn’t think that at 3 but at least in Coco’s case i think it’s an issue for her. a date? it’s on the to do list but there is no one around! it’s not for lack of trying though!!

      • Sen says:

        Isn’t it sad that parents would teach a 3 year old to be bias. 😦
        I’m glad you found a friend who looks like her and hope you find a few more. I would also send a book to her class about “friendship with others who do look like you”. Maybe that will help because it does take a village to raise a child and stop hate no matter how subtle.
        Sen

  3. ethiopiaadopt says:

    Great story. I just joined an organization where I live so I can meet other like-minded african-american families with children. With school and sports my little one is usually the only black kid. He doesn’t seem to mind but I don’t want him to grow up to be one of those black kids that can’t connect with his own people. I suffered this problem some when I went away for the first time to college.

Kind words only, please! :)

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